Developing type 2 diabetes earlier may increase your risk

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Type 2 diabetes may be linked to cognitive problems later in life. Katherine Monge/Stocksy
  • A new study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore looked at the association between pre-diabetes and dementia.
  • Their findings did not show a general association between pre-diabetes and dementia risk, but they did find that the development of type 2 diabetes was associated with dementia.
  • Additionally, scientists have learned that the earlier someone develops type 2 diabetes, the risk of dementia may increase.

A study published in Diabetes shows a connection between type 2 diabetes and dementia.

Although the aim of the research was initially to find out if there is an association between pre-diabetes and dementia, the scientists found that pre-diabetes alone is not associated with dementia.

Instead, they learned that what matters most in terms of dementia is whether someone progresses from pre-diabetes to type 2 diabetes and how early the development of type 2 diabetes occurs.

With this knowledge, the medical community has all the more reason to focus on encouraging people to adapt to healthier lifestyles and not only lessen the burden of type 2 diabetes on the healthcare system, but also reduce the number of people who develop dementia.

The authors used data from the Risk of Atherosclerosis in Communities (ARIC). The ARIC study focused on atherosclerosis, but because it tracked a lot of data (including cognitive functioning and glycated hemoglobin), the data is valuable for researchers conducting other studies.

The ARIC study is a prospective cohort study that followed participants for nearly 30 years.

The diabetes project researchers used data from 11,656 participants aged between 45 and 64 when initially recruited. None of the participants had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when the study began, although 20% had pre-diabetes.

During the follow-up of participants, some of the data that the ARIC study researchers tracked included blood sugar, medications, medical reports, and cholesterol levels. In addition, researchers used questionnaires such as the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) to assess cognitive functioning.

Researchers in the diabetes study divided participants into four groups, depending on when they were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes: under 60, 60 to 69, 70 to 79, and 80 to 93.

From there, the scientists analyzed reports of when the loss of cognitive functioning occurred.

Over participant follow-ups, 44.6% of those who entered the study with prediabetes developed type 2 diabetes. Of participants who did not have prediabetes, 22.5% were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Additionally, 2,247 participants developed dementia over the years.

While scientists thought the connection between pre-diabetes and dementia was the key, they learned that the most important connection was when someone was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

“The association of pre-diabetes and dementia was strongly attenuated and was no longer statistically significant,” the authors write.

The earlier someone was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the greater their chances of developing dementia became.

According to the authors, “the cumulative incidence of dementia was higher among those who developed diabetes at an earlier age.”

Participants who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes before age 60 were three times more likely to develop dementia compared to other participants. As the participants’ age increased, their risk of dementia decreased.

People diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the age group 60 to 69 had a 73% increased risk, and people in the age group 70 to 79 had only a 23% increase in risk of developing dementia. People in the age group 80 and older did not have an increased risk of dementia.

These findings demonstrate the importance of not only preventing type 2 diabetes, but also working to reverse course when someone has prediabetes.

Before someone develops type 2 diabetes, they often develop pre-diabetes. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “prediabetes is a serious health condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes”

Although there are no signs or symptoms associated with prediabetes, doctors can detect it with routine blood tests. When a person discovers they have prediabetes, they have the chance to make changes to their diet and lifestyle to hopefully get their blood sugar back to a healthy level.

Pre-diabetes can develop into type 2 diabetes, a metabolic disorder that causes people to have high blood sugar levels because their bodies cannot process blood sugar properly.

O CDC notes that about 37 million Americans have type 2 diabetes (approximately 10% of Americans).

People don’t always have symptoms when they initially develop type 2 diabetes, but when they do symptoms can include the following:

  • increased thirst
  • frequent urination
  • fatigue
  • wounds that don’t heal
  • tingling in the feet

People with type 2 diabetes may need to start insulin therapy to control their blood sugar. They can also make lifestyle changes, including changing their diets and getting more physical activity.

The Doctor. Zeeshan Afzal, a health content consultant at online pharmacy and private health check service Welzo, who was not involved in the study, spoke to medical news today and explained how type 2 diabetes and dementia are linked.

“The relationship between [type 2 diabetes and dementia] It is complex and multifactorial. Some potential mechanisms that may contribute to this association include vascular damage, insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, and the formation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain,” said Dr. AFZAL.

The Doctor. Afzal noted that type 2 diabetes is “characterized by high blood sugar levels resulting from insulin resistance or insufficient insulin production” and said this can cause damage to blood vessels and nerves.

“The brain depends on a constant supply of blood and oxygen, and any interruption in blood flow can affect its function and contribute to cognitive decline,” said Dr. AFZAL.

doctor Pouya Shafipour, a board-certified obesity and family physician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., also not involved in the research, discussed the study results and why dementia can occur with type 2 diabetes with MNT.

“Long-term higher hyperglycemic states result in insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and eventually diabetes,” said Dr. Shafipour.

“This study confirms this hypothesis that has been around for some time,” noted Dr. Shafipour.

“Most likely, this is a result of a high state of insulin resistance, causing inflammation, microvascular damage, glycation of cerebral vessels and nerves, resulting in dementia,” he explained.

Developing type 2 diabetes earlier may increase your risk

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